Television news icon Barbara Walters finally confirmed the news of her retirement on Monday's episode of The View with a heartfelt (if early) farewell in advance of her leaving behind the show — and more than a half-century of TV history — this time next year.
"You're telling the people what's what," Whoopi Goldberg said to her co-host, setting the table for Walters: "After all the speculation and so forth within the past month, I promised you would hear it here first. So here it goes," Walters said, leading into a video retrospective of her career. She was the only western interviewer to speak with Syria's Bashar al-Assad, and she once asked Vladimir Putin if he ever ordered anyone killed. (He said no.) And there's a whole lot more:
"I'm always accused of making people cry, so let me just say that I have been on television continuously for 50 years, oh!" Walters said. "But the summer of 2014 — a year from now, I plan to retire from appealing on television at all." She added: "I wouldn't change a thing. I'm perfectly healthy. This is my decision." And The View will live on, probably with special appearances by Barbara herself. "It's their time now," she said of the many women she still hoped to inspire with their own television careers. To her viewers, she finished: "My cup runneth over, I thank you, I thank you, I thank you."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made a surprise appearance on the show to congratulate Walters on a job well done. "Well I was in the neighborhood and you've always been my idol," the mayor said. Walters called Bloomberg "the greatest mayor," before adding that she "loves" him. She then told a story about a segment they did years ago where the View hosts were choosing their ideal husbands... and Walters chose Bloomberg. Walters assured the audience that their love "was never consummated."
"Hope springs eternal," Bloomberg joked.
After word leaked in late March, Walters took back control of her own retirement party, in a kind of half-denial non-denial — and a bruising appraisal of the tabloid media — on The View a few days later. Then, at least, came a feature story on ABC News last night, and an interview with The New York Times's Bill Carter in today's paper. Indeed, the first major network female news anchor was going out on her own terms: "When I go there is not going to be any, 'Please can I have another appearance?' I don't want to do any more interviews," she told Carter. "I don't want to do any other programs. I'm not joining CNN. This is it."
So now we get a year full of "Goodbye, Barbara" programming coming from ABC. The show she created in 1997, The View, will air a number of retrospective videos over the next year. We're going to get one more edition of Barbara Walters' 10 Most Interesting People before everyone stops being interesting. She'll have one more sit-down with Barack and Michelle Obama before she walks out the door. There are also whispers she'll revive her post-Oscars special one last time despite a three-year hiatus. And then the cherry on top will be ABC's one-hour special dedicated to Walters.
As for her post-broadcasting plans, there were some jokes about Dancing With the Stars. But it sounds like Walters really wants to travel: "I've never seen the Forbidden City," she said on The View. "I've been to China three times. I hope the Great Wall is still there. I went when Nixon went, but wound up running after him with a tape recorder," she told Carter. It's still there, Babs.